UVM Students Won’t Return to Campus; Commencement Changes Expected | Off Message

UVM Students Won’t Return to Campus; Commencement Changes Expected


The University of Vermont campus - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • The University of Vermont campus
Students at the University of Vermont will not return to Burlington to finish out the rest of the school year, university president Suresh Garimella announced Monday.

He also ordered the 850 students still on campus to leave amid the widening outbreak of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus. Those who move out by March 30 are eligible for a $1,000 housing credit.

Students without other options can apply for emergency housing.

"After March 30, no students, other than those approved for emergency housing, will be able to access rooms, their possessions, and associated facilities until further notice," Garimella wrote in the message sent to students, faculty and staff Monday morning.

UVM spring break ended on March 16, but most students never returned to campus. Instead, the university switched to remote learning, which began on March 18. That method of study will continue through the end of the school year, Garimella wrote.

"It has become clear that the responsible course of action in light of the global public health challenge confronting us is to have our students leave campus," his statement said. 

About half of UVM's 10,700 undergrads live off campus. Garimella urged those students, if they are not from the local area, to leave their rentals and move back home.

"Many of you share close spaces in a way that presents risks to you and to your roommates," he wrote. "What will you do if one of you becomes ill or needs to self-quarantine? Most of you will be better off back home with your family. "

Campuses across Vermont and the country shifted to remote instruction earlier this month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools asked most students to move off campus or take extended spring breaks, and, in some cases, to clean out their dorm rooms.
The university will make a final decision about commencement by March 30, Garimella wrote, but added that it is "unlikely to proceed as planned." Commencement is currently scheduled for the weekend of May 16 and 17.

"Unfortunately, many of the celebratory aspects associated with our Commencement do not align with social-distancing principles,"
 Garimella wrote.

The emergency housing plans remain unclear. Some of the 850 students still on campus are international students who face travel restrictions and other obstacles in returning to their home countries.

"We understand that some students may not have viable alternatives; we will work with those who have challenging circumstances to provide emergency options for housing," Garimella wrote. "On-campus residents will receive additional information from the Office of Residential Life within 24 hours."